House: Tax bills approved

  • Sessions House (File photograph)

Two tax bills said to be crucial to this year’s Budget were approved despite a war of words in the House of Assembly.

The bills were given approval despite a warning from the Opposition that the taxes would lead to higher costs for the public on Monday night.

The Financial Services Tax Amendment 2019 was brought by Wayne Furbert, the Junior Minister of Finance.

Taxes on banks and some insurance premiums will bring in millions of dollars in extra revenue.

Scott Pearman, the Shadow Attorney-General, said that car and bike insurance would rise as a result.

He added that it would “make the cost of living in Bermuda more expensive”.

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the OBA’s spokeswoman for finance in the House, criticised a lack of controls to stop companies upping premiums.

But Zane DeSilva, the tourism minister, attacked the One Bermuda Alliance’s austerity measures when the party was in power.

He added that the former administration had “doubled our debt in three years”.

Jeanne Atherden, an OBA backbencher, said: “If we don’t raise the concerns of our constituents, then we are not doing our jobs.”

Mr Furbert acknowledged there was nothing that could stop companies from passing on costs.

But he told the OBA: “We are following the same guidelines that you did in 2017.”

The Foreign Currency Purchase Tax Amendment Act, a hike the foreign currency purchase tax from 1 per cent to 1.25 per cent, was also passed after a stormy debate.

Mr Furbert said it was “neither exorbitant nor inflationary in this economic climate”.

But Ms Gordon-Pamplin predicted a “consumer knock-on effect”.

She said residents paid in US dollars would not feel “one iota” of pain, but people who earned Bermuda dollars would be “hard done by”.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin said the Government should cut its costs instead of raising taxes.

She added: “The Government gets the goldmine and the people get the shaft.”

Kim Swan, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, accused the Opposition of belittling the PLP with “condescending coded messages”.

Mr Furbert added that the OBA had planned to “balance the budget on the backs of labour”.

The House of Assembly also approved a move to extend Customs duty relief for hotels and restaurants.